The world of modern music teems with cover bands that seem to simply rehash contemporary or classic songs often with little deviation from the original. Once in a while, though, a band comes along and takes the original version and makes it uniquely their own. The Ooks of Hazzard, with roots in the Palisades, has done just that.
Part of what separates The Ooks from the pack can be understood just by looking at the band members: They consist, not of multiple guitar players but multiple ukulele players. This divergence from traditional instrumentation is not a gimmick. The Ooks of Hazzard are a collective of talented musicians reinventing a diverse selection of songs.
The Ooks of Hazzard began with core members Charlie Diaz, Ed Marshall and Palisades native Patrick Hildebrand. Diaz and Hildebrand had been playing open mic nights throughout the Los Angeles area with their ukuleles when they ran into Marshall, who had been playing around on his mandolin, and asked him if he would like to join them on the ukulele.
Since then, the band has grown to sometimes consist of up to nine people, including Merideth MacArthur, Nick Dean and Timm Freeman on even more ukuleles, Dave Botkins on a Peruvian percussion instrument called the cajon, Danny Kopel on the accordion and Rick Torres on bass guitar.
The first big break for The Ooks came in April when the alternative rock band MGMT was set to perform at the annual Coachella Music Festival in Indio. The Ooks decided to take this opportunity to post a video of themselves covering the popular MGMT song “Kids.” Posted on YouTube the day after MGMT’s set at Coachella, the video became instantly popular, now having been viewed 400,000 times.
Hildebrand holds the title of musical director within the band, arranging and recording the music the band creates. He also works at the Village instrument store , which his father owns. Hildebrand has been playing music in and around the Palisades area since he was a kid, at one point even getting signed to the label RCA in the 1990s.
“The Palisades was a great place to play music. The parties, so many musicians and me having a great way to network . . . . Most of them took lessons at my dad’s music store at one time or another,” Hildebrand said about growing up in the Palisades. “I can say I feel truly blessed to have been raised in the Palisades.”
The Ooks of Hazzard display an eclectic and varied musical taste. The songs it plays cover such ground as Pink Floyd, Jerry Jeff Walker, Radiohead, MGMT, Allman Brothers, Joe Strummer and Devo. They especially love twisting originally electronic songs by bands such as the Black Eyed Peas and MGMT into their own ukulele-centric works.
Along with their different styles, the members perform with a range of ukuleles, including bass, baritone, tenor, concert and concertino types. One of the Ooks' more unique instruments is the Resonator Delta Cone Ukulele, or the Banjuke.
With the Ooks of Hazzard’s sudden Internet success, the band became instantly visible in the music world and offers began pouring in. The band played mostly shows and festivals and benefits in Southern California, with one notable exception being the Denver UkeFest. Its appearance at this festival went so well that the Denver ukulele community thanked the band members in tribute with a cover of “Redneck Mother,” originally by Jerry Jeff Walker, in a video on YouTube.
To find more about The Ooks of Hazzard and upcoming shows, click here.
To view the MGMT song covered by The Ooks, click on the video attached to the article.